Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Pre-Slash, Drama, Missing Scene/Epilogue
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  1 - April 18-22, 1998
Spoilers:  Enigma
Size:  77kb
Written:  November 26-28,30, December 3,6-7,10,13,23, 2007
Summary:  SG-1 meet the Tollan, and it's up to the flagship team to prevent the alien race from being taken prisoner by the NID.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “Mr. Jealousy's Debut”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Tonya, Jo, Sara, Linda, Melissa, Carol, Claudia!

Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down
by Orrymain

Jack and Daniel had just come through a rough patch in their friendship, one caused by the debut appearance of the older man's Mr. Jealousy.  Jack was in love with Daniel and had become jealous when he thought the younger man was engaged in a relationship with Sam.  

Since Daniel had no clue that Jack was in love with him, he'd been confused by his friend's anger and had assumed Jack was just tiring of being around him.  Consequently, he'd been really pleased when Jack had reluctantly confessed that he was jealous of the time Daniel had been spending with their other friends and that he had really missed spending time with Daniel.

Likewise, Jack had been relieved to discover that Daniel had simply helping Janet Fraiser's new charge, the alien redhead, Cassandra, settle in to life on Earth.

Now, the friends had plans to spend their next downtime together, doing a combination of things each enjoyed, including a hockey game and a museum exhibit.  First, though, they had a mission this morning to P3X-7763.

As SG-1 was adjusting their gear and firearms while waiting for the Stargate to engage, Jack spoke sarcastically, “I'll bet there are more trees.”

“Most of the planets we go to have trees, Sir,” Sam replied.

“Do you not like trees, O'Neill?” Teal'c inquired.

“I love trees; I'd just like to step onto a new planet and see something else for a change,” Jack replied, looking over as the kawoosh of the Stargate thundered in the gate room.

“Without trees, we'd be in trouble,” Daniel stated.  “Did you know that a mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as ten people inhale in a year?”

Jack stared at Daniel in disbelief and then replied wryly, “I'll remember that if I'm ever on 'Jeopardy'.”

“SG-1, you have a 'go',” Hammond called out over the tannoy from the control room.

Jack looked up, gave his commander a nod, and then said, “Let's go talk to the trees.”

With that, the flagship team of the SGC stepped through the Stargate onto P3X-7763.

“Whoa!  None of this was going on when we sent the probe through,” Sam exclaimed as she took in the sight before them.

The planet was dark and gloomy, and there was debris and destruction everywhere the team looked.

“What's this stuff in the air?” Daniel questioned, peering at what looked a little like snowflakes swirling around them as they remained on the steps by the Stargate.

“Ash,” Teal'c answered.
 
Daniel wondered how far away the erupting volcano was, but realized it didn't really matter.  Even if it was miles away, the team was still in incredible danger.  After all, Pompeii had been miles from Vesuvius when it erupted in 79 A.D., and it had still been covered in eight to ten feet of ash.  Similarly, Herculaneum was four miles from Vesuvius, and yet lava had reached the town in less than five minutes.

“All right, Daniel.  Dial it up; get us out of here,” Jack ordered.  ~Geez, reminds me of that 'Ring Around the Rosey' game.  Wouldn't be healthy, but a kid could really have fun falling down in this stuff.~

“No argument,” Daniel replied, stepping down and heading for the DHD.

Jack followed, standing by the MALP and checking it for damage.

“Wait a minute,” Daniel called out, moving away from the DHD slightly.  “There's something out there.”

Jack looked over at the younger man, wondering what he'd found.  His question was quickly answered.  Over the next few minutes, the team found several people, barely alive.  Others had already died, apparently from suffocation due to the volcanic ash that was falling in abundance from one of the volcanoes that was erupting, its orange lava traveling downward, putting SG-1 in danger.

All of the people SG-1 found had devices attached to their arms that intrigued Daniel.  While the archaeologist remained captivated by the devices, Sam was shocked when one of the survivors grabbed her arm and told her not to help them.  It was a request she couldn't honor.

“Daniel, dial!” Jack ordered.  “Get us some help.”

Immediately, Daniel sprinted over to the DHD and dialed Earth.  Once connected, Jack explained the situation over the MALP.

“A lot of them are dead, Sir ... suffocation,” Jack stated.

“But a lot of them are alive, too,” Daniel added as he stood by the colonel.

“We need a medical team STAT,” Jack stated.

“How long do we have, Colonel?” Hammond asked as he saw the ash falling like rain through the MALP's camera.

“We're not sure, but I don't think we should be here for lunch, or ... we might be the lunch,” Jack said, looking over his shoulder at the flaming lava spewing from the volcano.

Within minutes, the Stargate had been shut down and re-engaged from Earth's side to allow a medical team and supplies to come through.  SG-1 stood back for a moment while the teams checked the survivors for injuries and helped to revive some of those who were alive, but unconscious.

~Since we have a second,~ Jack began internally as he stood off to the right of Daniel a bit.  ~I've got to say you look dang sexy covered in ash.  Look how it hits your hair.  Okay, so ash isn't something you'd normally see in a romantic novel, but, dang it, Daniel, you're dang cute with ash all over you.~  He blinked and made a face as he began to chastise himself.  ~Crap!  Can't afford to think things like that.  Get your mind back to business, O'Neill.~  Seeing to the medical teams, he watched carefully as they finished their quick exams and motioned they were ready.  Hurriedly, he addressed his archaeologist, ordering, “Daniel, dial.”

Once again, the shaggy-haired man placed his hands over the appropriate chevrons and then hit the large, red circle at the center of the dial home device, watching as the thundering blue kawoosh powered its way forward and then back into the newly created wormhole.

“Colonel!” Sam called out, pointing to another eruption of the volcano.

“*Move!*” Jack shouted, as he practically pushed the first member of the medical team through the Stargate.

While the flowing lava was still far enough away, the falling ash had doubled and sparks of the lava were hitting in places that were too close to the Stargate for comfort.

“Go!  Go!  Go!” Daniel shouted to the medical personnel in front of him.  Suddenly, he saw something that disturbed him.  “Jack, I think we missed one!”

Jack looked in the direction where the archaeologist was pointing.  Then he looked back at the erupting volcano.  They didn't have time to wait for a medical team to examine the injured person.

“Go on!” Jack shouted.

“Jack ...”

“I'll get them.  Daniel, go!” the colonel ordered.

Daniel walked a bit closer to the Gate, watching to make sure everyone else went through.  He was holding up one survivor and knew his responsibility was to them, but he had to make sure Jack was okay.  He watched as his friend hurried to a spot to the right of the Stargate.  This survivor was further away than the others and had only been visible through the dense ash once Daniel happened to look out in that direction from the platform at the top of the stairs.

Jack picked up the injured alien and hurried to the steps.

“Daniel, follow orders -- go, for crying out loud!”

Daniel turned and helped his charge through the Stargate.  Once down the ramp, another member of the medical staff took over, helping that survivor, and others, to the infirmary.  He flicked his boonie back and, seeing Jack appear through the event horizon, holding a victim, felt like maybe he could breathe again.

“You okay?” Daniel called out.

“Yeah,” Jack shouted.  ~Dang geek.  Could have gotten himself killed waiting for me.~

Wearily, the colonel sat down at the end of the ramp, his team nearby.  General Hammond walked forward and received a quick status report and then ordered SG-1 undergo a cautionary medical examination, after which they'd debrief.

Sam and Teal'c led the way to the infirmary, with Jack and Daniel following.

“I told you to go,” Jack spoke quietly.

“I guess I didn't hear you,” Daniel lied.

“Selective hearing?” the older man accused.

“Actually, doing as ordered,” the younger man countered.

“You've got to be kidding,” Jack spoke in disbelief.

“I'm supposed to cover your six,” Daniel claimed.  “I was just ... covering.”

“You're supposed to do what I order you to do *when* I order you to do it,” Jack spoke.

The discussion between the two friends had gotten a bit intense.  They were focused only on each other, almost unaware that anyone else was close by.

“Jack, I was the one who saw the other victim,” Daniel pointed out.

“Good.  We know your eye prescription is correct.”

“I should have gone after them myself.”

“I was closer,” Jack spoke.

“But ...”

“Daniel, you can 'but' all you want, but let's get one thing perfectly clear,” Jack began.

“Your name is really Nixon?” Daniel smirked, making the connection between Jack's use of the phrase of 'one thing perfectly clear' with the former United States president, who was credited with giving the phrase notoriety.

“Daniel, I'm the leader of this team, and when I give an order ...”

“I'm not in the military, *Colonel*.”

“Believe me, I know!” Jack espoused, shaking his head.

Passing personnel were whispering and looking back at the two men, wondering what the details of the debate were.

“Look, all I did was wait for you.  What's wrong with that?” Daniel asked.

“What's wrong with that is ...” Jack paused, realizing he'd just bumped into an airman.  “Watch where you're going!” he barked.

“Yes, Sir,” the airman said, saluting the colonel.

“Move!” Jack barked without returning the salute.  ~Hate that.~

“Jack, you ran into him,” Daniel pointed out.

“Stick to the subject,” Jack snapped.

“That you need glasses?” the near-sighted archaeologist quipped.

“No, that ... crap, I forgot,” the irritated man groused.

Daniel laughed, “It's okay, Jack.  They say the mind is the first thing to go.”

“Well,” Jack said with hesitation.  “Better that than ...” he paused, looking downward.

“Gawd,” Daniel expressed in embarrassment, blushing and shaking his head as the two continued on to the infirmary, their banter now more lighthearted, but still narrowly focused on each other.

====

“You evacuated ten people from an alien planet, Colonel.  Doctor Fraiser says they're all human, and it looks like they're going to live.  This was one hell of a rescue operation,” Hammond reported when the debriefing began a bit later.

“Thank you, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.

“There were no buildings in the area of any kind?” the major general questioned.

“No, Sir,” Sam answered.  “We don't know how far they walked, but it looked like they were trying to make it back to the Stargate.”

“What do we know about these devices they were wearing?”

“Well, they all emit low levels of radiation, indicating an operative energy source, but there's no circuitry, moving parts, or chips.  We've never seen anything like it,” the captain answered.

“I thought at first that they were from a parallel culture, but it looks like they might be way ahead of us,” Daniel opined.

“We've determined humans on other planets originated here on Earth, right?” Hammond asked the archaeologist, who was sitting on his left.

“Yes,” Daniel confirmed a bit hesitantly, slowly nodding his head as he issued his affirmation.

“Then given our present state of technology, could they be ahead of us?”

“Yes.  Uh ... we'd be colonizing space right now if it hadn't been for the Dark Ages.  There was a period of over eight hundred years where science was heresy and anathema.  Maybe they didn't have that setback,” Daniel theorized.

At that point, Hammond was made aware that the spokesperson for the rescued people wished to talk to them, so the briefing was temporarily called to a stop as they traipsed up to the infirmary.  There, they met Omoc, who was a little less than thrilled at having been rescued.

“What is this place?” the alien asked.

“You're on a planet called Earth.  These people saved you,” Hammond stated, referring to SG-1.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Omoc responded.

Surprised, Daniel refuted, “Well, unless I missed something, you're ... better off here than you were there.”

“There was a rescue transport on the way,” the man claimed.

“Well, half your people were already dead.  I don't think it would have gotten there in time,” Jack asserted.

“Perhaps that's more of a problem for you than it was for us,” Omoc spoke in a superior tone.

“Beg your pardon?” Jack asked, taking offense at the man's lack of gratitude.

“I find it unbelievable that anyone so primitive could have deciphered the Gate system,” Omoc opined arrogantly.

“Did you say primitive?” Jack responded incredulously.  ~The Nox may say we're too young, but at least they're nice about it.~

It quickly became clear that Omoc didn't think much of Earth.  Apparently, the people from his world, Tollan, were acquainted with both the Jaffa and the Goa'uld, but were not at war with them.  As he listened to Omoc arrogantly dismiss the hospitality that was offered to him, Jack decided that the Tollan pretty much matched the Goa'uld in arrogance.

Finally, Omoc stated, “I demand you return everything that you have taken from us and allow us to go home.”

“Well, it ... it could take a while for those volcanoes to quiet down.  In the meantime, I'm a bit of a culture buff, I'd like to learn about your history and customs,” Daniel requested politely.

“I've said enough.  I'll say no more,” Omoc replied, turning his face away from the Earthlings.

As the team walked out, Sam looked over at one of the other survivors.  She'd been the one to find him on the planet.  Their eyes locked and held their gaze for several seconds until Sam went out into the corridor with the others.

“Captain Carter, I want you to monitor the situation on Tollan very closely.  As soon as it's safe there, I want those people gone,” Hammond stated, irritated by Omoc's dismissal of their offer of friendship.

“Yes, Sir,” Sam said.

Jack shrugged at the ridiculousness of the situation and then the team separated to go to their various duties.

“Jack, don't you think that's a little ... strange?”

“Omoc, or his friggin' 'I'm better than you' attitude?” Jack questioned.

“I think he wishes they'd died out there,” Daniel responded.

“I'm thinkin' maybe I agree,” the colonel replied.

Daniel glared at his friend and then said, “We have to find out more about them.”

“You're welcome to try, Daniel,” Jack said as he slid his key card to call the elevator.  “But I don't think they're going to be very helpful.”

“We can try.”

“Have fun,” Jack said, a twinkle of sarcasm in his eye as he entered the elevator and chose his floor.

“Thanks,” Daniel snarked back, watching as the doors closed in front of him.  ~Why would they prefer to die?~

====

Later that night, Daniel sat in his apartment still trying to understand the attitude of the Tollan.  A local news report was airing on the TV, while his coffee table was covered in several open books, along with a mug and thermos that was filled with coffee.  On the side of the sofa was a power bar and two Twinkies.

A knock on the door drew the archaeologist's attention from what he was doing, but only slightly as he called out, “Come in.”

Jack opened the door, looking at it and noticing the locks, none of which, obviously, had been locked.

“Daniel, don't you ever lock your door?”

“Do you?” the younger man charged, knowing his friend had a habit of leaving his own home unlocked.

“That's beside the point,” the colonel responded, staring at the TV as he walked over to the sofa.  “The President's still lobbying for that Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Daniel glanced up briefly and asked, “What?”

“The news,” Jack said, motioning towards the television.

“Oh, uh ... I wasn't listening,” the archaeologist admitted.

“What are you doing?” Jack questioned curiously as he sat down, then bounced back up, realizing he'd just sat on the power bar and Twinkies.  “Sorry,” he said as he tossed the semi-smashed yellow treats and the power bar onto the coffee table.

“It's okay,” Daniel said, still a bit distracted.

“What are you doing?” Jack repeated.

“This?” Daniel asked, seeing his friend's glare.  “I just thought I'd read up on volcanoes.”

“You didn't get enough on P3X...uh, whatever?” the colonel challenged in question.

“P3X-7763,” Daniel completed.

“Hey, how come this planet has a seven-number designation instead of six?” Jack suddenly asked.

With a clueless shrug, Daniel suggested, “Ask Sam.”

“I did.”

“What'd she say?”

“I don't know.  I tuned her out after the first sentence,” Jack admitted, reaching down and grabbing one of the Twinkies as he prepared to eat it.  “The volcano?” he said, redirecting their conversation.

Daniel stared as Jack downed one of his precious Twinkies, apparently without remorse.

“It reminded me of Pompeii,” the scientist admitted.

“Mount Vesuvius,” Jack acknowledged.

“Uh, yeah, right,” Daniel said, impressed with his friend.  “The ash and pumice from the eruption buried Pompeii for ... for seventeen-hundred years before it was rediscovered in 1748.”  The archaeologist went on for another six minutes, talking about the ancient Roman city and what the excavations had revealed.  All the while, Jack was munching on the archaeologist's goodies.  Finally, he sighed and asked, “Jack, are you listening to me?”

“Sure,” Jack answered.  “P3X-whatever reminded you of Pompeii.”

“Right,” the archaeologist responded, shaking his head at his friend.  “Why are you here?”

“Pizza!  I'm hungry.  Let's go,” Jack said, patting his friend on the back as he stood up.

“You just ate my ... uh ...” Daniel pointed to the discarded wrappings of his treats.

“It's Saturday night.  We'll take in a movie, too,” the older man stated.

Letting out a snort, the archaeologist gave in and went out with his friend for pizza and a movie before returning home to continue his research for a bit and then go to bed.

====

“What movie did you see?” Sam asked early the next morning while she and Daniel were eating breakfast in the mess hall.

“'Chasing Amy',” Daniel answered.

Sam nearly spit out her scrambled eggs.  She coughed, bringing her napkin to her mouth.

“You okay?”

“Yes.  The colonel went to see 'Chasing Amy'?” Sam questioned, certain she'd heard incorrectly.

“He thought it was about comic books,” Daniel chuckled.

“Oh,” Sam laughed, though she tried not to.  “I'll bet he was surprised.”

“That wasn't the worst part,” Daniel confided.

“What was?”

“Sergeant Siler was there.”

Sam again brought her napkin to her mouth, bowing her head as she giggled.

“Did you talk to him?”

“Jack took us out through the side exit.  I kept telling him he was overreacting.  I mean, uh, it's just a movie ...”

“... a movie about two guys, living together, one of whom falls for a lesbian and ...”

“You've seen it.”

“Of course, I have,” Sam answered.  “I like Ben Affleck.”

“Was he 'Banky'?”

“No, that was Jason Lee,” Sam responded and then pointing out, “Ben played 'Holden', the one who fell for 'Alyssa'.”

“Okay,” Daniel said, nodding as he cut away another bite of waffles and then slid it into his mouth.

“So ...” Sam prompted.

“Oh,” Daniel expressed, swallowing his food.  “So, anyway, Jack was trying to make a quick exit, while I was telling him he was acting like a lunatic.  I mean, why was he acting like that?  It didn't make any sense.  He's arguing with me and then, bam.”

“He didn't.”

“He did.”

“Right into him?”

“Jack was walking so fast, that Siler banged right into the truck,” Daniel laughed.  “I thought he might have hurt his ribs.”

“What happened next?”

“Siler said 'hello' and smiled, and Jack glared at him.  He just kinda ... walked away as quickly as he could.  I don't think he'll ever admit to being at that theater last night,” Daniel mused.

“Did you like the movie?” Sam asked.

“It was okay.  It was too vulgar, unnecessarily, I thought, but I was interested in how it dealt with perceptions and how they affect our lives,” Daniel answered.

“I know what you mean,” Sam agreed.  “What about the ending, with 'Holden' and 'Banky'?”

“Well, it was obvious they could still communicate.  It was actually a little ...”

“Daniel, Carter,” Jack said, joining the two in the commissary.

“Hi, Jack.”

“Sir,” Sam said, suddenly laughing.

“What's so funny?” Jack inquired as he stirred his oatmeal.

“Nothing, Sir.  If you'll excuse me,” a giggling Sam said as she got up and walked away.

Jack looked at Daniel suspiciously, but the younger man just shrugged and continued eating his breakfast.

====

Later that morning, Daniel was in the infirmary, trying to elicit information from the Tollan.  At the moment, he was talking with one of the men who had been rescued.

“So, why were you still on the planet?  I mean, it's obvious that the rest of your people had already left.”

“Yes,” the man answered.  “Your friend, the blonde ...”

“Captain Carter,” Daniel stated.  “She's, uh, a doctor of astrophysics, too.”  Taking a breath, he asked, “Was there something you left behind?  Did you come back for a reason?”

“Will she be coming to talk to us?” the alien asked, ignoring Daniel's question.

“Sam?” Daniel questioned, looking over to where some of the other SGC personnel were.  “I'm ...not sure, but I'll find out.”

====

“Anything?” General Hammond asked when Daniel tapped on the door to his office.

“Frankly, Sir ... no,” the archaeologist answered.  “They're full of questions, but empty when it comes to answers.”

Hammond studied Daniel carefully, sensing he had something more to add.

“Doctor?”

“Uh, well, there's one of the survivors.  He's ... very interested in Sam, General.”

“You think she'd have more luck?” Hammond asked.

“I'm not getting anywhere.”

“Captain Carter should be in the gate room,” the SGC commander informed.  “Have her come to my office.”

Daniel nodded and let out a yawn just after leaving the other man's office.  He'd stayed up way too late, refreshing his memories about Pompeii and other infamous volcanic incidents on Earth over the years.  He decided to go by his office before talking to Sam.  There, he filled his mug full of hot coffee.  Taking a sip, he felt revived and then headed out to fulfill his assigned task.

====

Still carrying his cup of coffee in his hand, Daniel entered the gate room, seeing Sam working on a project.

“New hobby?” the archaeologist asked.

“Neat, huh?” Sam responded, happy with the object.  “Miniature UAV with all the bells and whistles.  I'm just adding heat sensors so I can send it through the Gate to Tollan.”

“Hmm,” Daniel acknowledged.  He began to walk around the UAV, studying it as he talked.  “I was just down in the infirmary with one of the Tollan, trying to get them to talk to us. They only ask questions; never answer them.  As a matter of fact, one of them was asking a lot of questions about you,” Daniel revealed.

“I thought they weren't interested in us,” Sam responded.

“Ooooh, I didn't say 'us', I said 'you',” Daniel replied as he stopped just to Sam's right.  “General Hammond thinks maybe you'll have better luck getting some answers.”  After a pause, he added, “He'd like to see you.”

“Okay,” Sam acknowledged, finishing up and then walking out of the room to meet with General Hammond.

Hammond walked with Sam to the infirmary, formerly introducing her to the alien, Narim, who was the one she'd locked eyes with both on the surface of the planet and then again in the infirmary.  He was also the alien Daniel had been talking to who was so inquisitive about the blonde captain.

General Hammond allowed the captain to take the alien topside, which was a bit of a surprise and an indication of just how much he wanted answers from the Tollan.  There, Narim thanked her for saving his life, as well as the others.  He asked her to pass it on to the rest of SG-1, explaining that he wasn't free to thank them himself, though he never really explained why, except to say that Omoc was only trying to protect them and really wasn't as harsh as he seemed to be.  Still, somehow, it was Narim who learned more about Earth than Sam did about Tollan.

====

Later that day, the UAV went through the Stargate, revealing that the volcano's lava was headed straight for the Gate.  The prediction was that the Stargate on the planet would be buried within two days.

“Captain Carter, you and Doctor Jackson talk to Omoc.  Tell him what we've found out and see if they're willing to talk to us some more now,” Hammond stated, leaving the control room.

Sam and Daniel exchanged a look and started out, hearing Jack retort, “Have fun,” as he smiled and looked at Teal'c.  “How about a game of ping pong?”

“Ping pong?”

“I'll show ya,” Jack said, leading a curious Teal'c out of the room.

====

“Are you absolutely certain?” the alien asked after Sam and Daniel had informed him about their findings.

“Yes.  I'm sorry,” Sam answered.

Omoc let out a heavy breath and said, “Then nature succeeded where we failed.”

“What?  You were going to seal the Gate?” Daniel asked, surprised.

“Tollan is a world in cataclysm,” Omoc explained.  “Evacuation was complete.  My team stayed to ...”  He paused, looking away for a moment before he continued, “Our final task was to close the Gate, so that no one could return and be harmed.”

“Well, wherever you were going, we can recalibrate the co-ordinates from here,” Sam stated.

“The new settlement world is outside the Gate system.  We'll need a ship,” Omoc stated.

That, unfortunately, was not something Earth had available.  Sam and Daniel left the Tollans and went to General Hammond, who summoned the entire team to a briefing.

“Well, the bottom line here is your survivors have become refugees.  If they don't want to be here, we've got to relocate them somewhere,” Hammond stated.

“You know, General, we have done some fairly good deeds out there.  Maybe we should try calling in some markers,” Jack suggested.

“Okay,” Hammond said, liking the idea.  “Colonel, you and Teal'c follow up on that.  Maybe go pay a visit to some of our old friends.  Captain Carter, I want you and Doctor Jackson to get the multi-purpose room on 5C readied as a refugee housing center,” Hammond ordered.

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.

====

“What'd you do last night?” Jack asked early the next morning as he and Daniel changed into their green BDUs from their civvies.

“I slept.”

“Imagine that,” Jack laughed.

“I was tired,” Daniel admitted.  “I didn't get home until one.”

“In the morning?”

The archaeologist nodded and then yawned.

“It's 0700.  How much sleep did you get?”

“I got home at one; was asleep by two minutes after,” Daniel answered.

“Five hours?” Jack guessed.

“Five hours and thirty minutes,” Daniel said with a smile, grateful he lived only twenty minutes away from Cheyenne Mountain.  “Teal'c said something about you teaching him ping pong yesterday.”

“Yeah.  I let him win a few games,” Jack stated.  “You know: bolster his confidence.”

“Right,” Daniel replied skeptically as he slipped on his jacket.  “I have to go.  Sam and I need to get the refugee center completely set up this morning.”

“Fraiser said she'd be releasing most of the Tollan today from the infirmary,” Jack noted.

Nodding, Daniel was yawning as he waved his right hand in goodbye at the older man and then exited the locker room.

~I'll bet he stops for coffee first,~ Jack mused fondly as he reached down to tie his bootlaces.

====

With the refugee center in the process of being set up, Daniel and General Hammond were showing the area to Omoc, who had been released from the infirmary.

“As an act of good faith, we're returning the devices you were wearing,” Hammond stated as they walked forward.

“They are not weapons,” Omoc responded.

“That's what our technicians thought,” Hammond replied.

“So you had them tested?  Not much of an act of good faith,” the alien put forth accusingly.

“Well, actually, we couldn't figure out exactly what they were,” Daniel admitted as he trailed behind the two men, his two hands in front of him, his fingers occasionally tapping together.

“I want to assure you, we're doing all we can to relocate your people,” the major general asserted as they came to a stop.

“Are we to have some say in the matter?” Omoc questioned.

“Oh, yes.  Self-determination is a concept that's very important to us,” the archaeologist answered.

“We'll do our best,” Hammond promised.  “In the meantime, we'll make you as comfortable as possible, but I want you to understand, you're restricted to the immediate premises.”

“Are we prisoners?”

“No, no, absolutely not,” Daniel answered as he now stood at Hammond's side.

“But you are from an alien environment.  It's as much for your safety as for ours,” Hammond spoke diplomatically.

Looking at Hammond, Omoc asked, “When will the rest of my people be released to this area?”

“Soon,” Daniel responded.  “In the meantime, we hope these accommodations are okay.”

Omoc stared at Daniel, his unspoken words clear: prisoners have no choice in their accommodations.

“This will suffice,” the Tollan leader stated and then turned to head back to the infirmary.

Hammond sighed, “I hope Colonel O'Neill is successful.”

“I think maybe we just need to give them some more time to adjust,” Daniel offered.

“Son, we've extended about as many olive branches as I know how,” Hammond stated.  He looked down the corridor at the departing Omoc and added, “There are only so many times this country will extend friendship just to have it thrown back in our faces.”

“Yes, Sir,” Daniel acknowledged, sighing and looking around the large room as the major general left.

“Problems?” Sam asked, walking over to her friend.

“Omoc wasn't thrilled that we had the devices checked out.”

“Daniel, I seriously doubt that if the situation were reversed, the Tollan wouldn't have done the same thing.”

“Maybe,” Daniel acknowledged.  Looking around, he asked, “Okay, so ... where are we?”

“I thought we'd ...” Sam began, leading the man to another section of the room as she explained her idea.

====

“It was strange, Daniel,” Sam spoke a bit later while conferring with Daniel about the refugees.  All of the Tollan had been taken to the refugee center and were settling in.  “I mean, we've seen how Omoc is, but I wasn't expecting this.”

“What exactly?”

“Omoc has some strange control over the Tollan, or, at least that's how it seems.  I just get the feeling they're inhibited by him somehow.”

“What gives you that idea?” Daniel questioned.

“Well, I took Narim ...”

“Narim.  He's the one who had all those questions ... just for you,” the archaeologist smirked, knowing exactly which alien he was.

“Yes,” Sam affirmed, ignoring the probing smile on the man's face.  “I was taking him some books and things and, well, we were just talking.  Omoc walked over, and it was almost like a chill came over the conversation.  I got out of there after that.”

“Well, they may be human, but they have their own culture, so ...”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed with a shrug.

====

Jack and Teal'c had returned from making contact with one of their allies and were headed upstairs to meet with their other teammates and Hammond to confer.  Hammond, however, was still in his office when the two entered the briefing room.

“We set up a meeting with Tuplo for 0800 tomorrow,” Jack announced that evening as he walked over to where Daniel was seated and stopped.

“Colonel O'Neill was correct.  Many of the worlds we have visited are eager to be of service,” Teal'c stated.

All of a sudden, Hammond emerged from his office, calling out, “People!  We have a problem.”  Reaching the head of the table, he informed, “Your refugees seemed to have escaped.”

“Escaped?” Sam echoed.

“How did they get past the guards?” Jack questioned.

“You can ask them that when you find them,” Hammond replied.

Quickly, SG-1 headed for the gear-up room to prepare for their search.

====

“They're over here,” one of the search team members shouted about thirty minutes later, his search dog ahead of him.

“Hold fire,” Jack ordered.  ~Okay,~ he thought as he came upon the refugees, standing calmly together and looking at SG-1 with a combination of confused and stunned expressions.

Walking towards the colonel, Omoc explained, “We were merely observing the stars.”

“Well, you're all going to have to come back in now,” Jack responded.

“So we *are* prisoners,” Omoc stated, not needing an answer.

“No, you're not,” Daniel refuted, stepping forward.  “It's just ... we have rules.”

“Rules?” Omoc questioned disbelieving the comment.

“Regardless, it's time to go back,” Jack said, nodding in the direction of the aboveground entrance to the Mountain.

Omoc looked back at his people and then stared again at Jack before calmly walking forward.  The other Tollan began to follow.

Sam and Narim locked eyes once again.  The black-haired man nodded at the blonde, giving her a brief smile before catching up with his people.  Teal'c and the other search team members all followed.

Jack let out a groan and said, “I'm not sure we should send them to the Land of Light.”

“Jack, they're just ...”

“Rude, Daniel.  They're rude, smug, arrogant, and ungrateful,” the colonel stated, turning around.  “We should have left them on their precious planet,” he said as he began to head back.

Daniel shared a look with Sam before he hurried after the quick-paced colonel, calling out, “You don't mean that.”

“I don't?” Jack challenged, glancing back as he held onto his MP-5 weapon.

“No, you don't.”

Jack sighed, glancing around the woods, and then said, “Okay, no, I don't, but they just don't get it.”

“Jack, wouldn't you be pushing the boundaries if it were us on some planet, being told we weren't prisoners and yet being confined to one room?”

The colonel stopped, staring at his friend.  He glanced back at Sam, who was following the two.

“Okay.  Let's get back.”

“Okay,” Daniel agreed, feeling like he'd gotten through to his friend.

“Okay,” Jack repeated.

“Okay, let's go,” Sam said, chuckling slightly as she pushed in between the two men and moved ahead of them.

Jack and Daniel shrugged and then returned to the interior of the Mountain.

====

The next morning, Hammond, Jack, and Sam, all dressed in their dress blues, discussed the limited information they'd acquired as to how the Tollan people had managed their 'escape' the night before.  So far, they hadn't had much success, especially since the surveillance video in the multi-purpose room that housed the refugee center had been exposed to some sort of interference, essentially knocking it offline at the precise moment the Tollan had disappeared.

While the technicians were working on the mystery elsewhere, the three officers joined Daniel and Teal'c in the briefing room, where Tup'lo and another representative from the planet were waiting.  Graciously, the leader of the Land of Light invited the Tollan to make their new home on his planet.  His speech was warm and welcoming.

Shocking to the Tau'ri, Omoc rudely refused the generous offer, ending his response to the invitation by rising and stating curtly, “His planet is unacceptable to us.  These people are even more primitive than you.”

====

“We're sorry about that,” Jack spoke as he walked the Land of the Light leader to the ramp in the gate room.

“We know you are sincere, Colonel,” Tup'lo responded.  “We in the Land of Light remain your friends and welcome your visits to our world.”

“Thank you,” Jack responded.

Tup'lo nodded at the rest of SG-1 and then returned home.

“That went well,” the colonel said sarcastically as he headed for the exit.

“Okay, well, who else can we try?” Daniel questioned.

“Daniel, those arrogant ingrates aren't going to like anyone we try to set them up with,” Jack retorted, frustrated by Omoc's attitude.  “Carter, you have a thing going with that Narim guy ...”

“A thing, Sir?” Sam asked, having been rather taken aback by the comment.

“He likes you.”

“He ... does?”

“Carter, play coy later.  Right now, we need information.  Get it,” Jack ordered as he brushed by his second-in-command and left the gate room.

When Sam looked at Daniel questioningly, the archaeologist said, “I think it was the cat.”

“Schrodinger?” Sam asked.

The planet of Tollan hadn't had living animals on it for some time, and, during their walk topside of Cheyenne Mountain, the sight of the birds had entranced Narim.  One thing had led to another, and, on another visit with the man, Sam had taken Narim some books to read and also surprised him by gifting him with a cat she'd named Schrodinger that she'd gotten from a local animal shelter.

“Daniel, since when is giving someone a cat the same thing as being ... involved with them?”

Daniel smiled as he stood with his arms folded and replied, “You'll have to ask Jack that.”

Sam groaned as her friend left the gate room.  She looked over at Teal'c, who simply nodded and then walked away.  Taking a quick look at the Stargate, the blonde shook her head quickly a couple of times, as if trying to wake from a bad dream, and then headed back for her lab.

====

That night, Jack sat up on his roof deck, looking through his telescope at the stars.  It was peaceful.  Stargazing was one of the few things that always brought peace to his soul.  Yet, he was restless and stood up, walking around the small deck.  Finally, he rubbed the back of his neck as he came to a realization, not that it was a new one, but it was the one that explained his mood on this night.

Shaking his head, Jack put away his telescope and went downstairs, finally stopping at the bookshelf.  He sighed, seeing several books belonging to Daniel, and that was the problem.

Daniel's books were at the country home, but Daniel was not.

~Blast it, Daniel.  I'm in love with you, and it's killing me.  Crap, it's lonely around here when you're not here.~  Jack paused, thinking, ~I can't barge in on you every night.  Heaven knows I want to, though.~

Jack headed upstairs and turned on his portable stereo, flipping on the cassette tape of one of his favorite operas.  Plopping down on the bed, he stared up at the ceiling, hoping to forget his loneliness.  He wanted to tune out how empty his heart felt without his best friend, the man he also loved.

It was a lonely, music-filled night for the military man.

====

In another part of town, Daniel was listening to a rock music station while reading a couple of archaeology publications.  Off and on, he stood up to stretch, sometimes pausing to study one of the artifacts that adorned his apartment.  He would reflect back on the treasure's acquisition and what he'd learned from that particular experience.

Though the young man wasn't really that hungry, he found himself munching on popcorn as he read.

~Popcorn while I'm reading?  Okay, that's a first, so, uh, why am I doing this?  I mean, I don't normally eat buttery popcorn while I'm reading.  That's something Jack would do.~

Daniel shrugged and continued reading, though he found the rock music suddenly distracting.  Going to his stereo, he adjusted the tuner until he came to a public radio station that was playing opera.  A peace flowed through him.

~Wonder why I enjoy opera so much now?~

The scientist returned to the sofa, settling down, but after reading another article, he realized he was restless.  He looked at his watch and suddenly realized why.

~Gawd, Jackson.  The man has a life.  He doesn't need to baby-sit you every night, for crying out loud.~

Unable to cure his uneasy state, Daniel left everything where it was and went to bed.  He let the sounds of the opera filter through the air of his home and sighed.

~I'd even watch another hockey game,~ Daniel sighed, rolling over to his side.

It was a lonely, music-filled night for the archaeologist.

====

The next day, Jack was headed down an empty corridor of the SGC.  His mind drifted a bit, and he began to hum.

Unaware the colonel was nearby, Daniel exited one of the labs where a member of his staff was working on a project.  He walked briskly down the corridor, his hands in his pockets and his head bowed, his mind still running over various alternatives that might be more appropriate for the staffer's project.  Suddenly, he heard the humming, and his head shot upright, an air of familiarity surrounding the musical interlude.

“Hey,” Daniel called out.

“I was just coming to see you,” Jack spoke.

“Oh.  Uh, you were humming.”

“Humming?”

“Yes, humming.”

“No, I wasn't,” Jack insisted.

“Yes, you were,” Daniel maintained.

“No.”

“Oh, yes,” the younger man continued to assert.

“No.”

“Yes, you were -- 'La Clemenza Di Tito'; 'Titus', in Act 1,” Daniel said, pointing out not only the name of the opera, but the character who sang it and when.

Jack cocked his head slightly as he stared at his friend.  He knew the archaeologist had begun listening to opera sometimes when they'd spent their downtimes together, but they'd never listened to this one.  He was sure of it.  That meant Daniel had heard this on his own somewhere along the line.

“Daniel, how do you know that?” Jack asked curiously.

“Oh, uh, well, I ... I guess I was listening to it ... last night ... on the radio.”

With wide eyes, the older man replied, “How about that.  I was listening to it, too, but I have the cassette.”

“Oh.  I understand a lot of people don't believe it was one of Mozart's best,” the younger man stated.

“There are those,” Jack acknowledged as the elevator doors opened.

The two men walked into the elevator, turning around to face the front.  As the doors closed, they remained silent for a couple of floors.

“You listen to opera in that museum of yours?” the colonel asked, turning his head to look at his friend.

“Sometimes,” Daniel answered.  “And it's not a museum; it's my apartment.”

“Could've fooled me,” Jack teased.  Then he broke into a grin and began to face the front again.  For some reason, he felt proud and happy about the revelation.  Actually, he knew why.  Daniel had taken interest in something that was one of his passions.  It meant a lot to know he was genuinely enjoying opera and not just tolerating it as a part of their friendship.  “Any news on the Tollan front?” he asked, knowing that they still had some serious business to handle at the SGC.

“Cold and chilly?” Daniel quipped just as the elevator doors opened.

“Good one,” Jack said as the two headed for Daniel's office.  “Fill me in.”

As they entered the archaeologist's office a minute or so later, Daniel had just surprised the colonel with the latest information he'd gotten from Sam earlier that morning.

“What?” Jack questioned.

“Apparently, the people on this planet, Sarita, were about like us in their technological advancement.  That didn't worry the Tollan at first.  They thought that was enough,” Daniel stated as he leaned against one of his bookshelves with his arms folded across his chest, “Jack, they gave those people a device to produce unlimited productive energy.”

“I take it that's not what they used it for?”

Shaking his head, the archaeologist sighed, “And I can see it happening here, as much as I wish we could say it wouldn't.  The Saritans used the energy device as a weapon of war.  They destroyed their world in one day, *and*, worse for the Tollan, that's what set about the changes on their planet.”

“The volcano?” Jack asked.

“That was the last event, but it had started with other things before, with weather changes and ... well, the point is, their planet's orbit was altered, and that altered the planet.  Now ...”

“Now it's a resort ... for anyone who can breathe in two-hundred-degree heat without swallowing a mouthful of ash.”

“More or less,” Daniel affirmed.  “Uh, by the way, according to Narim, Omoc was telling the truth last night.”

“Not escaping?”

Daniel let out a tiny chuckle and said, “I have a feeling we couldn't stop them if they really tried, but, uh, no.  They were calibrating the distance between Earth and their new home world.  I guess it's ... far ... far away.”

“That ship we don't have?” Jack questioned, having heard about Omoc's request for a ship from two days prior when he'd been talking with Sam and Daniel.

“If they'd tell us more, I think we could probably help them.”

“Put Carter on it.”

“Jack ...”

“It worked the first time.  She's between boyfriends,” Jack said nonchalantly.

“Jack ...”

“Okay, let's go see what we can find out ourselves,” Jack suggested, getting up from his desk.

“You just don't want to finish reading my report,” Daniel teased just as Jack reached him.

“Report?”

“The one that's been sitting on your desk for the last two days,” the archaeologist reminded.

“Oh *that* report,” Jack responded innocently.  “Sure, I do.  It's ... fascinating,” he claimed a bit insincerely.

“What's it about?” Daniel challenged as he turned and followed his friend out of the office.

Waving his right hand in front of him, the colonel answered, “It's about ... um ... I'll read it later.”

Daniel shook his head, bowing it for a moment to hide his smile, as the two men headed for the refugee center.

====

Jack walked into the area where the Tollan were, Daniel just a step behind.  He saw Sam and Teal'c over to one side, standing in front of some of the other aliens, and headed over to join them.

Approaching Omoc, Jack brought his hands together in a mock clap and spoke, “So, not a real escape?”

“Our escape was a test,” Omoc responded as he passed Jack, giving him just a quick look.  As he continued talking, his back was to SG-1.  “You did exactly what I knew you would do.  You used threat and force to solve your problem.”

“You didn't give us any other choice,” Sam pointed out.

“You could have come for us unarmed,” the alien countered.

“Hey!” Jack exclaimed, taking offense at the charge. “You haven't exactly behaved like someone I want to trust.  I'm not going to put my team at risk.”

“And I will not risk,” Omoc turned and began to walk towards Jack, “*my* people in your care,” he concluded, pointing sharply at Jack, showing more emotion than he had since he'd been on Earth.

~Okay, let's not start a war here,~ Jack thought.  “Look ... Omoc,” he began, drawing out a long breath.  “If you're so advanced, why don't you let *your* people decide for themselves?”

“Narim, this is a free country,” Sam stated, looking at the man as he now stood just a foot or so to Omoc's right.  Omoc was being a bit closed minded, and she was hoping the other Tollan might stand up to him, or break away from his domineering control.  “Every year we take in thousands of refugees fleeing repression.  If you request asylum, you can stay here no matter what Omoc wants.”

“You don't care anything about Narim's rights,” Omoc accused.  “You only want our technology, nothing more,” he spat, turning around and walking away.

Fed up with the Tollan's arrogance, Jack confronted the alien about how they got out of the refugee center in the first place, his snarky tone evident to everyone within hearing range.

Naturally, Omoc's attitude only worsened in response, ending up by essentially threatening, “You don't need to know how; only that we did, and we can do it again anytime we need to.”

Jack's smirk was unmistakable.  As Daniel wondered how he could stop this one-on-one war from escalating, an airman came to the rescue, explaining that General Hammond wanted to meet with the team right away.

~Lucky for you,~ Jack thought as he immediately left the room, followed by Sam, Teal'c, and Daniel.

As the team walked to the control room, Jack griped, “Daniel, I've changed my mind.  Maybe we should just send them back to Tollan; see how far they get there with their advanced technology.”

“Jack, he's trying to protect us,” Daniel reminded.

“From ourselves?  We can do that,” Jack argued.  He left out a pfft, rifling his tongue against his lip, and then he sighed, “Okay, *maybe* he has a point, but he doesn't have to be so smug about everything.”

“If your world faced destruction, would you not feel as Omoc does, O'Neill?” Teal'c put forth.

Jack stared at the Jaffa and then let out a groan, after which he answered, “Maybe.  But I'd be a little nicer about it, *especially* if I saved my life.”  He stopped, looking back at his teammates for a moment.  “You know what I mean.”

“I do,” Daniel said as the group continued on.  “That's what worries me.”

====

In the control room, Hammond and SG-1 watched the augmented surveillance video from the multi-purpose room and some of the corridors.  They were stunned to see that the Tollan had simply passed through the walls.

“Whoa!  Cool!” Jack exclaimed as he watched the aliens walk easily through the thick wall of the multi-purpose room.

“But *totally* impossible,” Daniel responded.

“Well, only from the perspective of our limited science, apparently,” Sam pointed out.

“We have similar video of them passing through an elevator door and a wall, on ground level,” Sergeant Davis noted.

“This is knowledge far beyond that of the Goa'uld,” Teal'c stated.

“That's exactly what the President and Joint Chiefs want to hear,” a strange voice called out, the man having entered the room with two other men standing near him.

Hammond and SG-1 turned around to see who had just entered the control room.

“Colonel Maybourne, Sir.  NID,” the man introduced while saluting Hammond.

“Intelligence?” Jack questioned in surprise.  “What happened to Kennedy?”

“Promoted.  I took his place.”

“Promoted?  Talk about failing upwards,” Jack quipped.

“Colonel O'Neill, I read about your conflict with Colonel Kennedy in his report.  I assure you, such an attitude will not prevail with me, in either direction,” Maybourne spoke authoritatively while looking Jack straight in the eye.

“I sense that,” Jack smirked.  ~Like I care.~

“Good.”

“Would you mind telling me exactly why you're here, Colonel,” Hammond requested.

“You didn't get my advance?” the man inquired.  After a minute, he suggested, “I suggest we discuss this in your briefing room.”

Hammond nodded, saying, “This way,” as he led the way out of the control room.

“He's gonna be a lot of fun,” Jack retorted in a quieted voice to the archaeologist.

“Give him a chance, Jack.”

“We'll see,” Jack said, following his team to the briefing room, where they all sat down, except for Maybourne.

The NID agent took out some papers and placed them in front of the major general, saying, “That's an order releasing the Tollans to our section.  You're to be congratulated, General; the Stargate program is finally paying off.  This was ... quite a coup.”

“Excuse me?  These are people we're talking about,” Daniel replied.  ~Okay, Jack was right.~

“These people do have rights, you know,” Jack stated.

“Do they?  Under what nation's jurisdiction?” Maybourne asked.

Angry, Daniel spat, “How about basic human rights?”

“I can't release them to you,” Hammond interjected.

“I beg your pardon,” the NID colonel spoke in surprise.

Thinking fast and relying on the fact that self-preservation would win out, Hammond used the ruse that the Tollan had yet to pass through quarantine to keep control of them for the time being.  He knew he'd bought his flagship team just a day at the most to try and find a solution to their latest problem.  After that, his hands would be tied, and the NID would be allowed to take 'control' of the Tollan refugees.

====

“Any progress?” Jack asked when Sam entered Daniel's office a bit later, having just spoken with Narim.

The colonel was standing next to the archaeologist, with Teal'c standing in front of the worktable.

“I think he might have asked for asylum.  I got the impression that some of the others would have, too, but not now that they know what might happen to them,” Sam stated as she walked over to stand beside the Jaffa.

“Maybourne: I'd like to throw that toad back to the swamp,” Jack groused.

Nodding, Sam continued, “Narim's afraid that Omoc is right; that any knowledge they shared would be used for warfare.”

“I wish I could argue with him,” Daniel stated from his seated position.

“What about relocation?” Jack questioned.

Shaking her head, Sam answered, “They're concerned that any planet we'd send them to would be ...”

“Primitive,” Jack and Daniel spoke in unison.

“Yes,” Sam affirmed.

“I really think Narim would have asked for asylum,” Sam stated quietly.

“Sorry to interfere with your love life,” Jack quipped, surprising everyone.  “Sorry, Carter, but we're running out of time.  I may not like those people, but I wouldn't wish being lab rats on anyone.”  He banged his hands on the desktop and said, “Come on.  We have a briefing to get to.”

====

“I just hung up from talking to the President,” Hammond announced as he entered the briefing room where SG-1, seated, and the NID agent, standing, were waiting.

Upon seeing the general enter, Jack and Sam stood, while Daniel and Teal'c remained seated on the opposite side of the conference table, the one by the window overlooking the Stargate.

“I guess Mister Maybourne has been talking to him recently,” Hammond spoke with regret, his emphasis on the Maybourne name spoken as if he were saying a swear word.

“I did tell you I had his ear, General,” Maybourne replied smugly.

“Colonel Maybourne has full authorization to relocate the Tollans immediately,” the major general reported.

“Of course he does,” Jack sighed in frustration as Sam looked down and Daniel stood, walking over to stand by the window that overlooked the Stargate.

~Chance?  Was I the one who asked Jack to give this man a chance?~ Daniel thought as he sat on the railing of the wall.

“To where will you take them?” Teal'c inquired.

“To a secure community here in the Rockies,” Maybourne answered.

An unhappy Daniel turned to Maybourne, his disgust obvious.

“Nice little community with high walls, guards, maybe a little barbed wire,” Jack spoke sarcastically.

“They're a valuable asset,” Maybourne stated.  “They need to be protected.”

“Nice: forced, intellectual labor,” the archaeologist spoke dryly.

“And life imprisonment,” Sam added.

“These aliens will live a better life than most Americans.  They'll have a great view, the best food, every convenience, everything they need,” Maybourne put forth passionately.

“Everything *except* a life,” Jack refuted.

“You know ... the Pentagon, Intelligence, that I can understand, but the President?  I voted for him!” Daniel spat in disgust, snapping his fingers as he stood and again faced the Stargate.

“Colonel, have the Tollans ready for transport at 0600 tomorrow,” Maybourne ordered as he and his men left the room.

General Hammond let out a sigh as he looked at his flagship team.  He started to speak, but nothing came out.  There really wasn't anything he could say that would help or change anything.  They were in a jam, and there was no light in sight.

“General ...” Daniel began, turning around to face a man he truly respected.

Shaking his head, the bald-headed man spoke, “I'm sorry; we're out of options,” and then he turned and returned to his office.

“Suggestions?” Jack asked his team as he slid back down onto his chair.  Silence filled the room.  “Is that a pin dropping?”

“Do you wish to mutiny, O'Neill?” Teal'c inquired.

Jack stared at the tall, dark man with incredulous eyes and then answered, “I do, but we can't.  Let's tackle this one step at a time.  What do we know?”

“The NID wish to enslave the Tollan,” Teal'c stated, looking at Sam as she, too, sat down at the table.

“There's that,” Jack acknowledged.

“The Tollan have rejected every candidate we've offered them for a new home,” Sam stated.

“Wait!  Wait!” Daniel exclaimed, holding his right hand up, one finger extended.  “*Why* have the Tollan rejected those places?”

“Saccharine,” Jack answered.  Seeing the funny looks from the others, he clarified, “Too sweet.”

“Uh, not exactly what I was trying to get at,” Daniel responded.

“They're primitive,” Sam interjected.

“That is what the Tollan claim the Tau'ri are,” the Jaffa added.

“I'm really beginning to hate that word,” Jack sighed.

“Exactly.  So, don't you see?  The answer is obvious,” Daniel stated excitedly.  His eyes darted around the room at his three, still clueless teammates.  “We find them a place to stay with a civilization that's not ... primitive.”

“Like ... who?”

Daniel smiled and said eagerly, “Come with me,” as he headed out of the briefing room and hurriedly towards his office.  “I want to review one of our mission reports.”

“What?  Daniel, why?” Jack asked.

“Because it might give us a way to save the Tollan ... I hope,” Daniel said, turning down the corridor.  “And I think I know how we can make it happen, too -- Colonel.”

“Sometimes that man really confuses me,” Jack spoke as he lagged behind for a moment.

“Just sometimes?” Sam teased, smiling as she passed the colonel.

~She has a point,~ Jack thought as he sprinted forward a few steps to catch up with the rest of SG-1.

====

A while later, responding to a written note from Jack to come topside to meet with SG-1, the major general emerged from the Mountain exit and approached his number one team, asking, “Okay, Colonel, want to tell me why I'm here?”

“Because Maybourne isn't, Sir,” Jack answered.

SG-1 went on to explain that they wanted to ensure that their alien visitors were able to escape.  Though supportive, Hammond pointed out that they would all be court-martialed for any attempt they made.

“General, I'm about a hair away from not caring,” Jack admitted.  “However, Daniel ...” he trailed off, looking at his friend.

“I can't be court-martialed, Sir,” the archaeologist pointed out.

Hammond stared at the young man thoughtfully for a moment and then affirmed, “No, Son, you can't.  What did you have in mind?”

“Well, first, we need to get the Tollan to trust us.”

“And that won't be easy,” Sam interjected.

“But if anyone can do it, it's Daniel,” Jack put forth, nodding at the younger man.

“I think I can do it,” Daniel asserted.  “The Tollan have their own system of government.  It can't be that hard to make Omoc understand that what's happening isn't us, but another division of our government.”

“We don't have a lot of time.  Maybourne is insisting on leaving at 0600,” Hammond reminded.

“We can get it done,” Daniel spoke confidently.

After hearing the plan in full, Hammond sighed, nodded, and said, “Unofficially, SG-1, you have a 'go'.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Jack stated, adding with a bit of a smile, “Unofficially.”

Hammond turned around to go back inside the Mountain.

“Daniel ...” Jack began.

“I know.  Don't mess up,” the archaeologist stated as he headed for the facility entrance.

“Actually, I was gonna say, 'good luck',” Jack called out.

“Oh, uh, thanks,” Daniel said, smiling as he disappeared inside the entrance to the Mountain.

Jack looked upward, seeing the sun was about to set.  That was good.  It meant if Omoc agreed to the plan, the next step could proceed under the cover of nightfall, with less chance of being caught.

====

Daniel's attempt to convince Omoc to trust him wasn't going very well.  The man was already angered from a visit with Maybourne, who had wanted them to take some tests.  Thus, he wasn't being receptive to the archaeologist's arguments; that is, until he made an impassioned plea.

“Listen, there was a planet we went to where people were as advanced as you, maybe even more advanced.  They were called the Nox,” the archaeologist stated.

“If you went there, why can't we?” Omoc inquired.

“Well ... because ... they felt about us ... kinda like you do.  They ... called us very young, which I suppose is a hair more polite than calling us primitive, but, same idea.  Anyway, they sealed their Stargate, and I don't know how to communicate with them to get it open.”

“Do you know where this planet is?”

“Yes, I have the coordinates right here,” Daniel stated, pulling out a small notebook from his jacket pocket.

“Then we must go back to the mountaintop.”

Daniel convinced Omoc that he had to go topside with them, something that appeared to surprise Narim.  Taking Daniel's hand, the alien used the device on his arm to allow both of them to walk through the necessary walls as they made their way outside.

====

“Do you think he's making any headway?” Sam asked as the three remaining SG-1 members waited in her lab, trying to stay out of Maybourne's sight.

“Daniel can talk his way through ... a mountain,” Jack smirked confidently.

“I hope so,” Sam sighed.  Seeing Jack's sappy, accusatorial expression, she added, “And it has nothing to do with Narim, Sir.”

“Of course it doesn't ... Captain,” Jack said, trying not to laugh, much to Sam's chagrin.

====

Daniel and Omoc walked through the woods of Cheyenne Mountain under a star-clad night sky until they were in what Omoc perceived to be a useable location.

“The coordinates,” the alien requested.

The archaeologist took out his notebook, opened it, and handed it to Omoc.  The alien studied it for a moment and then removed a device from his upper sleeve.  He knelt down on one knee and placed the object on the ground.

Daniel, meanwhile, sat down on the ground, leaning a bit to his left, his left hand, palm flat on the ground.

A moment later, Omoc switched on the device, and a beam of light shot upward into the sky.  A second afterwards, a blast of light disappeared up, into the sky.

“Listen, I'm no astronomer, but won't that take thousands of years to reach the Nox world?” Daniel asked curiously.

“Why would it?”

“Well, that's just a laser, right?  I mean ... light takes a long time to travel that far,” Daniel pointed out.

Omoc studied Daniel for a moment; then looked upward.  He looked back down and saw a thin, but fairly long twig on the ground.

Picking up the tree remnant, the alien attempted to explain by saying, “The distance between these two points,” he looked to both ends of the twig, “seems far.  Until you do this.”

Seeing Omoc bend the branch to join the two ends together, Daniel excitedly stated, “Okay ... okay, I remember this from college physics.  One of our scientists, Einstein, explained this the same way.  You are talking about actually folding space.”

Disappointed, Omoc answered, “No.  You wouldn't understand.”

Even more disappointed, Daniel agreed, “No, I guess not.”  A bit more upbeat, he added, “I just hope the Nox do.”

The two looked up at the stars for a minute, and then Omoc replied, “If they are as advanced as you say, they will get the message.”

“Is this ... sending them a message?” Daniel asked curiously.

“It will say what it needs to.”

“And, uh, how will we know when it's received?” the archaeologist questioned.

“We will see a message,” Omoc answered, looking at the other man.  “You are a most curious human being.”

“I ... yes,” Daniel confirmed.

“Helping us will not go over well with your government,” Omoc assumed.

“No,” Daniel said.  “No, it won't, but, uh ... that's okay.  I'm not military.  There really isn't a lot they can do to me.”  After a minute, he stated, “Omoc, when you get to your new home, I hope you'll consider making contact with us.”

“I have already explained why ...”

“No, please,” Daniel interrupted, holding up one hand.  “I just meant, whether or not you consider us allies, maybe you could just ... keep the door open.”

Omoc stared at the archaeologist, studying him closely.  To Daniel, he felt like he was under a microscope, being evaluated in a multitude ways.  He was relieved when a light beam from the sky seemed to connect with the alien object.

“What, uh ... what now?”

“Look up,” Omoc instructed, looking upward himself and seeing another blast of laser light seemingly burst into the object and then stop.  The alien picked up the device, pressed a button, and then studied it.  “The Nox will come soon.”

“How do you know?” Daniel asked.  Seeing the other man's reproachful stare, he said, “Never mind.”  He stood up and inquired, “When?”

“Soon.  We must prepare to leave,” Omoc said as the two headed back for the Mountain entrance.

====

As the night crawled onward, Daniel hurried into the control room.  He was surprised to see Sam and Narim kissing there.

“Whoops!  Uh ... sorry.  I gotta do some stuff in here,” the archaeologist stated, his notebook with the coordinates in his right hand.  Looking at Sam unabashedly, he added, “Actually, I need your help,” and then turned away and headed for the main console where the technician operating the Stargate normally sat.

“You should probably get going.  Don't forget Schrodinger,” Sam stated.

Narim smiled and gently touched the blonde's cheek as he spoke a heartfelt, “Thank you,” before walking out of the control room.

A bit saddened, Sam took a breath and then joined Daniel by the monitor.

“New boyfriend?”

“Daniel, I'll probably never see him again,” Sam spoke.  Smiling, she said, “But it makes it easier after ... you know.”

Daniel nodded, understanding that Sam was referring to her previous boyfriend.  They'd had a big fight the month before, and Sam had finally called it quits a couple of weeks ago.

“So, do you think we can really do this?” Daniel asked.

“Piece of cake,” Sam answered as she swung her chair around.

As Daniel moved to his right, giving Sam access to the main computer, the captain logged in and began her task.

“We can't take a chance on Maybourne seeing anything happening in the gate room,” Daniel reminded.

“I've got that covered,” Sam said as she typed away on the keyboard.  “Daniel, are you sure the Nox will come when Omoc said?”

Daniel shrugged, saying, “I hope so.”

“Yeah, me, too.  Maybe I can plug in a safety ...” Sam muttered.  “Yeah, I think that's a better way,” she said, changing slightly her plan on what would activate the blast doors that would seal off the control room from the gate room, successfully blocking visibility to the Stargate.

“You know, I should probably be doing that,” Daniel said.

“Nothing personal, Daniel, but it's faster if I do it, and the technician should be back from his dinner break soon.”  Sam glanced at her friend and smiled.  “We're a team.”

“But you can be court-martialed.”

“Hmmm ... well, we can say you hacked my access codes,” Sam stated with a grin.

“Hacked?” Daniel asked with wide eyes.  “I like that,” he said, smiling as his friend finished up her work.

“Okay, let's get out of here.”
 
====

Thirty minutes later, Jack entered Daniel's office and called out, “Showtime!”  Walking up to the other man's desk, he expounded, “Teal'c's waiting for you outside the refugee center, and Carter's headed for the control room.”

“What's she going to tell Sergeant Davis?”

“Technobabble,” Jack said with a shrug.

Putting down his pen, Daniel glanced at his watch, stood, and said, “See you there.”

“Good luck,” the colonel called out as Daniel headed for the refugee center.

====

Teal'c followed Daniel into the refugee center, where Omoc walked towards them.

“We're ready,” the archaeologist announced.

Omoc stared at Daniel, as if studying him again.  He nodded and motioned for his people to follow.

====

Meanwhile, Jack walked nonchalantly into the control room, leaning back against a wall.  There really weren't a lot of places to hide out in that area, so he decided it was better not to try and that he'd just say he was waiting for Hammond's meeting with Maybourne to end, should anyone question him about his presence there.

Sam looked back, quickly acknowledging her commanding officer's presence.

“This shouldn't take long, Sergeant,” Sam put forth about her task.

Sergeant Davis nodded.  He was used to Sam being in the control room.  Not only was she a higher rank, but he was also well aware that she was the computer guru of the SGC.  He'd never question her about anything she was doing in the control room at any time.

“Captain ...” Davis called out suddenly, having just become aware of the Stargate activating.

“I'm on it,” Sam said, covertly removing the safety and activating her preset program.

“Captain, the doors are closing.”

“What's going on?” Sam asked placing the right amount of confusion in her voice. ~Never knew being an actress would be part of this job.~

====

Upstairs, in the major general's office, Hammond and Maybourne had just been informed by an airman that the Tollan had again disappeared.  They'd been discussing the plans for the next morning when Maybourne was planning to take the Tollan out of the SGC.

To his credit, the major general played his angry and clueless role well, acting surprised about the unfolding events.

“Attention, all personnel.  Off-world activation.  Unknown source,” a voice sounded out over the speaker system of the SGC.

The group quickly headed down the stairs to the control room.  Seeing them, Jack moved forward, taking a position next to Davis and feigning concern.

“The mainframe's having a nervous breakdown,” Sergeant Davis informed.  “Now the iris is failing.”

“Why is the blast door down?  Get it up,” Hammond ordered.

When the blast door rose, Daniel, Teal'c, and the Tollan were standing in the gate room.

Maybourne was infuriated and eventually called over the public address system to Daniel that he could be court-martialed for what he was doing.

~Doesn't he know his own rule book?~ Daniel chuckled inwardly as he placed his hand to ear, as if straining to hear the upset NID agent, before turning back to face the Stargate.

Pleased with the way events that were playing out, Jack responded, “He's not in the military, Colonel, and I think it'd be kind of tough to find a civilian law to cover this.”

Undaunted, Maybourne again spoke through the microphone, threatening, “I'll have you removed from this program forever, if you do this.”

~I don't think you're that powerful, Maybourne,~ Jack thought.  ~Daniel is the one responsible for opening the Stargate in the first place.  No one is going to kick him out of anywhere.~

As the final chevron locked, Maybourne's fury was at its height.  He threatened to hunt the Tollan down, no matter where they were sent.

“We're not sending them anywhere, Sir.  The Gate was activated off-world. Someone is sending *for* them,” Sam pointed out.

“Who?” the irate visiting colonel asked.

Just then, Lya of the Nox walked through the Stargate, smiling as the Stargate shut down.

“Hello,” the Nox woman greeted warmly.

Daniel eagerly walked up the ramp and welcomed, “Hello, Lya.”

The reunion was interrupted by Maybourne's ire as he spoke into the microphone, “All personnel in the gate room.  This is Colonel Maybourne.  I have a Presidential Order to take the aliens with me.  Do not let them pass.  Use force, if necessary.”

Lya looked at Daniel and stated sadly, “Your race has learned nothing.”

Daniel looked at the woman, unable to deny her words, though he wished he could.

More lightly, Lya praised, “But you have.”  Looking over at Omoc and the others, she said, “The Tollans are most welcome to join the Nox.  Please come.”

Omoc walked up the ramp, stopping at Daniel's side, and stated, “Narim was right about you.  Perhaps in time we'll meet again.”

The alien put his hand on Daniel's shoulder, staring at him for several seconds in an acknowledgement of what he'd done for the Tollan.

~Thank you~ Daniel thought to himself, not needing more than the open mind he'd just been presented with by the Tollan leader.

With Maybourne still ranting orders and threats, Lya shook her head at the primitive response.  Then she closed her eyes and raised her arms in a wide, upward, swinging motion, opening the Stargate.

“Come,” the woman invited the Tollan people, making them disappear so that they couldn't be fired upon.

As Maybourne ordered the Special Forces personnel to open fire, their weapons disappeared, thanks to the Nox ability to make things disappear, as well as people.

Lya looked at Daniel one last time; then closed her eyes, walking backward through the open Stargate, which shut down a moment later.

“Gawd, I love those people,” Jack said happily from the control room.  He looked to his right and saw Maybourne glaring at him.  ~Man, he's angry,~ he observed as the other colonel and his men exited the area.

Hammond looked at Jack and then headed for the gate room.  Sam got up and hurried after them.

“You did good, Daniel,” Jack called out in praise, going part way up the ramp.

“What of Maybourne?” the Jaffa inquired as he stood on Daniel's left.

“Oh, he's not a happy camper,” Sam reported cheerfully.

“There'll be hell to pay when he gets back to Washington,” Hammond stated from his position on the ramp, just behind Jack.

~He sure is lost in thought,~ Jack observed as he walked so that he was at his friend's side.  “What?”

“Oh, just thinking what the little guy with funny hair once told us,” Daniel stated.

“'The very young do not always do as they're told,'” Jack responded.

Turning to the colonel, Daniel smiled and affirmed, “Yeah.”

For a moment, the four members of SG-1 stood in line, watching the Stargate.

“Okay, People, back to work,” Hammond ordered.

“Work?” Jack questioned.

Hammond chuckled, “Captain, make sure the computer systems are running normally before you leave.  I'll need your reports ...”  He saw the stares of the four teammates, all curious if they were about to spend the night at the SGC.  “Monday will be fine,” he completed, knowing the team was scheduled for a four-day downtime.

“Thank you, Sir,” Jack expressed happily.

Sam and Teal'c nodded to their other teammates and walked down the ramp, eager to finish up their obligations and get to their downtime.

Jack and Daniel remained behind, still standing in the same spot on the ramp.

“Are you okay?” Jack asked.

“Yeah.  I think we finally ... connected, a little bit,” Daniel stated.

“Speaking of connecting, I know a hockey stick destined for a puck,” Jack said eagerly about their plans to take in a hockey game that night.

“Isn't hockey season over with yet?” the archaeologist asked as the two men finally walked down the ramp and headed for the gate room exit.

“Daniel, you know full well it's the playoffs.  Tonight the Avalanche are going to bury the Blackhawks, and, tomorrow, it's the Rangers and the Panthers.  I'm betting on Gretzky.”

“Jack, the game has to be over.”

“We're in that miracle age of the VCR, remember?  The game will be waiting for us.”

“Let me know how it turns out,” Daniel said, feigning a yawn.

Putting his arm around his friend's shoulders as they walked, Jack said, “You'll be right there in front of the television with me, Dannyboy.  Just you, me, pizza, popcorn, beer, and two great hockey teams.”

“A little crowded, don't you think?” Daniel said as he slid his card into the elevator call slot.

The elevator doors opened immediately.

Jack patted his friend on the back as he lowered his arm and replied, “Sounds perfect to me.”

The two friends stepped inside the elevator and turned around to face the front.

As the doors closed, Daniel said, “You know what, Jack?”

“What?”

“It sounds perfect to me, too.”

Jack smiled and nodded, certain that he and Daniel would have a wonderful weekend together.  He smiled even more so, knowing that Daniel was thinking the same thing.  Nothing would be lonely about this night, or any other that the two friends spent together.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Feedback Welcome - click here to email the author


internet tracking statistics
Beryl Peridot